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How to Optimize Your Home for Passive Solar Energy

To get your favorite flowers to bloom, you make sure the pot is situated for optimum sunlight. Though your house won’t grow from light exposure, it can benefit tremendously from the same kind of strategic positioning. The only question is: which way should your house face?

The Who:

The WhoA home’s orientation is important for those shopping for a home or piece of land to purchase. At this point, it’s easy to consider the direction the house faces. You still have the option to either keep shopping or have a home custom built.

That being said, current homeowners can also benefit if you’re willing and able to undergo some remodeling. There are smaller projects that can optimize when and where the sun’s rays shine through, such as increasing the size of your windows or knocking down a wall to allow sunlight to reach more rooms.

The What:

The WhatThe concept of positioning your home toward the sun to save on heating and cooling costs is called passive solar energy. Depending on where the sun is in relation to your home’s windows, it may help heat up your living space while keeping unused areas cool. The catch: there’s a lot to consider when setting up your home for effective passive solar energy.

You probably know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but there’s a little more to the equation than that. As explained by the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, the Earth’s tilt causes the sun to rise and set a little bit to the south in the winter and a little bit to the north on warm, summer days [in the Northern Hemisphere]. With that understanding, these orientation tips will help you capitalize on the sun’s free energy, while enhancing your home’s curb appeal and value:

  • A rectangular home should run east to west, so that its long sides face north and south.
  • The south side of your home should get the most exposure to the great outdoors with large, floor-to-ceiling windows, glass doors and very few trees or obstructive roof overhangs. This allows for the winter sun to naturally heat your home. To truly optimize your windows, apply window film that will allow the sun to shine through while blocking harmful UV rays and cutting down on glare.
  • On the contrary, the northern side of your home should have fewer or smaller windows, more shade trees and a deep roof overhang or awnings.
  • The layout should bring frequently used rooms to the south side of the home to feel the effects of winter sunlight, while garages and laundry rooms should be situated on the northern side to block winter winds. For existing homes, you can re-purpose rooms or knock down walls to achieve the same results. Plus, an open-concept home is more marketable for resale.
  • Design walkways and driveways so that they run to the south or east of the house. Gravel and asphalt heat up quickly, which can impact your home’s overall temperature. Keeping these paths away from the strong summer sun can help prevent unwanted heat gain.
  • Utilize masonry floors and walls to absorb and store the solar heat coming through southern windows. This is a direct gain design, as described by Energy.gov, which releases the stored heat as the room cools after sundown.

The Why:

The WhyYour energy bills are mostly impacted by the cost of heating and cooling your home. By carefully positioning the direction your home faces, as well as enhancing certain features, you can take full advantage of free solar energy. Not only does your home become more cost-efficient, but you may also create a better view, increase curb appeal and raise the resale value of your home.

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